Forging ahead – one year after the Berlin Libya Conference

Libya Conference in Berlin

Libya Conference in Berlin, © Guido Bergmann/Bundesregierung/dpa

19.01.2021 - Article

Participants from 12 countries met in Berlin on 19 January 2020 at the invitation of Chancellor Merkel and UN Secretary-General Guterres to seek ways out of the conflict in Libya. One year later, we take a look at the tasks that now lie ahead.

What was the conference about?

Having long simmered, the civil war broke out again in April 2019. The parties to the conflict received substantial external support in the form of military equipment and personnel. An end to the escalation was not in sight. In order to strengthen the UN’s efforts to end the fighting and return to an internal Libyan-owned peace process, Germany, together with the UN and partners, had held talks with those exerting influence over the parties to the conflict in Libya as part of what is known as the Berlin Process.

At the Berlin Conference on Libya, the participating states and regional organisations pledged to refrain from exerting influence and from providing any military support as well as to support UN-led formats for talks. As a result of the conference, the working groups and structures agreed upon in Berlin with a view to resolving the conflict – including through ceasefire negotiations and economic and financial reform – commenced their work.

What has happened since then?

The situation in Libya improved significantly over the course of the past year. There has been no fighting since June 2020 and a genuine UN-led peace process is making progress. This is illustrated by three concrete examples:

  1. The Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF), in which Libyans from all political groups are represented, has been meeting since November. This intra-Libyan body has already agreed on the structure of a new all-Libyan government and on a date for nationwide elections in December 2021. As of this week, proposals are also on the table regarding how a transitional government can be appointed.
  2. A ceasefire agreement has been in place since 23 October 2020 and its implementation is making steady progress. For example, military officials from the parties to the conflict are carrying out confidence-building measures such as prisoner exchanges.
  3. The blockade of Libyan oil wells has been lifted, which makes a big difference in terms of supplies for the population. As long as oil is not sold, the salaries of civil servants and other government employees, for example, are not paid. Furthermore, tangible steps are being taken to overcome the division of the economy between eastern and western Libya.

And what happens next?

Although many things are moving in the right direction, there is still work to be done. The political and economic division of the country continues and the political dialogue forum has not yet been able to reach agreement on a transitional government that involves all groups and factions. No settlement has been reached regarding the nationwide distribution of oil revenues, one of the core issues of the conflict. Moreover, foreign military forces and mercenaries are still present in the country.

The Federal Government, together with its partners, will therefore engage with all international and Libyan actors to keep the peace process on track and bring it to a successful conclusion. Germany is also continuing to support the monitoring and implementation of the UN arms embargo as part of the EU operation IRINI. With the EU sanctions regime, the Federal Government and EU partners will continue to take resolute action against human rights abuses, violations of the arms embargo and attempts to stand in the way of the ongoing peace process. Foreign Minister Maas had the following to say in this regard:

There is no guarantee of peace in Libya. And it will take time until the country is fully stabilised. But the success achieved so far is a source of encouragement for our efforts.


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